Tag: Notes (page 1 of 4)

Cycles, Trilogies & Other Fancy Words For ‘Series’

Good Luck

While I’m busy moving myself and my Canadian half into our swank new Lansdale pad, here are some thoughts I’ve had recently concerning what was lately called “The Project”. I’d originally planned this out as a trilogy of stories to introduce the world, build up some of its history and cultures, and do my utmost to tell a few damn good stories while I’m doing that boring stuff at the same time.

The first novel in the arc will introduce the Cities of Light, the different systems of & viewpoints on magic, and how some of the other races have gotten on since the major catastrophe that happened in that part of the world. The next major story entry would take readers across the ocean to other settlements of humans, bring out some of the religions of the world and set up the dire circumstances that cause the events of the third novel. The initial story arc concludes with a globe-trotting world-threatening race-against-time sort of deal.

Now, this may seem like a typical trilogy, but I don’t think the stories need to end with the conclusion of the third novel. Descendants may run into future problems and allegiances or outlooks may shift over time. It’ll depend mostly on how much interest is actually garnered in my writings, if any at all comes my way, but I don’t want to necessarily limit myself to just three books in this world after investing a great deal of time & energy into its creation. So it may go transmedia, more books may get written, maybe there’ll be puppet shows or something. I can’t say.

Anyway, since the first three books will have a guy named Asherian as the protagonist, I figured the titles should reflect his central role. “Citizen in the Wilds” follows Asherian as the ‘spell’ of the Cities is broken and he struggles to survive in the inhospitable world beyond the battlements that surround them. “Alchemist at Sea” will have him going over oceans for a variety of reasons. And “Ambassador at War” should be pretty self-explanatory.

This is how things will get started, if I can get the first novel off the ground. Which, considering the epiphany I had Thursday night, is actually looking more likely.

“God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.” – Robert McKee (Brian Cox), Adaptation.

Originally the first novel was going to be named “Asherian’s Journal,” with subsequent titles starting with “Asherian’s” in ending in another capitalized noun. “Hey, it works for Jacqueline Carey, right?” was my thought. Then, hearing Brian Cox bellow out the preceding, it hit me like a half-brick to the face. Asherian writing in his journal between most chapters is the prose equivalent of a voice-over. Now, the character in the film is kind of taking the piss out of the film he’s in, since there’s a lot of voice-over narration that actually works, but I took his words to heart and cut some of mine out of the novel. We should be focused on Asherian, not necessarily shifting from an observer’s perspective to lengthy bits of his internal monologue and back again. It’s flow-breaking, shoddy and shallow, bordering on self-insertion.

And it was a darling.

Papa Wendig taught us how to deal with darlings.

Courtesy Terribleminds

It was a hold-over idea from when I first started this with Asherian as my protagonist, as a way to tell the reader more about his mentality and his view of the Cities of Light. But that’s what his communication with his sister is for. She talks with him through dreams and visions, and she shapes the forum in which they speak. Right there is all the in-world excuse I need to show the Cities of Light and how these twins see them, not to mention how that view shifts as the story goes on.

So down went the journal entries with a boot in the ass, followed by the Mozambique Drill. Pop, pop. BLAM.

Hopefully with that out of the way, I can get back on track with a daily word count of a thousand or more, since I dropped my projected total words for Citizen in the Wilds to 100k. Here’s why.

Anyway, there’ll be writing happening this weekend. Maybe after we unpack a bit.

Writing Right

Bard

We all study at the feet of giants. Even if they are only giants in our own minds, we get from where we are to where we want to be by studying others. As an aspiring writer, I look towards people who write and are not only enjoying a measure of success, but have what I consider to be an accessible method. Instead of admiring folks who are successful but come off as either completely selling out or being a pioneer in their own cult of personality without doing so with their tongue embedded in their cheek.

Here are the people I’m checking out to make sure I don’t wander too far from the path of good writing.

Terribleminds

It’s the Magic Talking Beardhead. Need I say more?

I do? Okay, it’s this guy Chuck. He writes lots of things. He writes things well. In fact he writes so well he was recently at the Sundance for a screenwriter’s workshop and rubbed elbows with greats. It was kind of like the experience of meeting cool folks at GameX, only Chuck got really good feedback from others already in the industry. I got a couple signatures and some compliments on my clever handle. Anyway, if you’re not already reading Terribleminds, you should be. So go and do.

Wordstudio

Will Hindmarch is somebody else I’ve met. It was years ago at an event called NEGLECT in Chicago. It was in the embryonic days of Vampire: The Requiem and he ran some of us through an example module. It was an absolute blast. Will is a friendly, creative guy, and to this day the only Requiem item I own is the storyteller’s screen he signed which I won on a random die roll.

I confess I don’t comment on his blog as often as I should, but he’s always got good ideas on writing and insightful meditations on other writers. It’s like the stuff I post here, but better.

Wil Wheaton

This guy might be one of the coolest cats on the planet. Seriously. What’s that? You thought Wesley Crusher sucked? Well, so does Wil. In his Memories of the Futurecast he not only takes the piss out of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation in general but himself in particular. I really want to pick up his book, as it sounds like a fantastic mix of nostalgia and facepalming, as he puts it.

To say that Wil is an inspiration would be a gross understatement. Here is a man who spent many of his formative years in the public spotlight but never got too far ahead of his own shortcomings. He’s had his share of interesting journeys both across the country and into himself, and the result is a surprisingly humble and humorous man who isn’t afraid to be a nerd, never hesitates to laugh at his own failings and is deeply thankful for being where he is now. Go read his blog, listen to Radio Free Burrito, and brew up some Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.

Kung Fu Monkey

This is hot stuff, dear readers. Like fresh off of the presses stuff. I just came across Kung Fu Monkey today. This morning. And it’s all thanks to Wil Wheaton. He told his listeners about Jon Rogers, writer for the TV show Leverage, doing cool stuff over on his blog. I went over there, and I’m glad I did.

Wil Wheaton: Giving you the mad nerd hook-up and reminding you not to be a dick.

Anyway, Rogers talks about writing for the show, and does post-mortems of the episodes where he takes the questions of the audience. It’s really fascinating, to peek into the mind of a creative work in progress that is already successful. It’s worth your time to check out.


Did I mention Wil Wheaton’s an inspiration? Well, he is. He’s inspired me.

“What’s he inspired you to do, Josh?”

Oh, you’ll see. You’ll see.

Stay tuned. There’ll be something of a special announcement during tomorrow’s IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! which I am really looking forward to doing – it’s something more recent per request from fans at the Escapist – so please cruise by tomorrow and give a listen. Thanks.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Thursday.

Burned by Midnight Oil

Courtesy Wiki Commons

This post is going to be somewhat short, which I know will raise a question of why I’m posting at all. Well, I like to keep what few readers I have current, and there’s also the fact that I need to vent at people who might possibly understand my frustration.

You see, instead of that albeit lovely picture of an oil lamp, this was supposed to be the day I finally got around to posting my preview of Star Trek Online. I have a video supplement planned out and everything. However, it seems that my love for the Flash programming language, ActionScript, has once again proven to be a hindrance rather than a help.

I had programmed my video supplement as a slideshow of cropped screenshots, with narration and a bit of appropriate music. Very nice and tidy and all contained within a single frame in Flash. Relatively small and clean, should be no problem to convert to a video that can be uploaded to YouTube, right? Well, not exactly.

Turns out I can’t seem to get software to understand that there’s more content to the video than just that one frame of blank background – the photos load through the script, you see. So I went back and started hashing out the manual, timeline-based method of getting the video together. However, I ran out of time, and now am getting ready to head out for yet another busy day.

Why a video supplement? I know I need the practice at planning production times and working with various suites of software if I am to work on them on the future, which I might. I also felt the need to branch out beyond static text into more dynamic forms of media, hence my Netflix ‘podcasts’ and the attempt at a video with “Powerless,” which could have turned out a lot better. Practice makes perfect, as they say, and this is to be more practice for me.

Unfortunately, it will have to wait.

PT: Get Organized

I'll be watchin' you!

There’s been a lot of Star Trek in my apartment lately. I’ve been introducing my wife to Deep Space 9, playing the open beta of Star Trek Online and bringing up Day Job Orchestra on YouTube when my recent negative moods have needed a little buoying. One thing that’s said quite often in Star Trek is that the ship needs to plot a course somewhere. Coincidentally, so do I, and you might find you need to as well.

I mentioned Tuesday that I have a to-do list for my largest current writing project. In case you missed it, here it is again:

  • Get plot points vetted.
  • Generate dramatis personae document.
  • Work out rules of languages & magic.
  • Write the damn thing (target word count:125k)
  • Find an agent a publisher.

I was linked an article written by Stephen King which said that finding an agent for your first novel is often an exercise in futility. Agents work on commission, after all, and 10% of nothing is… well, nothing. That’s why the last point changed. But the fact I want to highlight here is that I have points. There’s a plan here.

The general premise of this story is something that’s been kicking around since I wrote it out as a short work some years ago. Some of the concepts are the same, but as I’ve changed as a writer, so has the story. If I’m going to go with it as my primary long-term project as described over at Terrible Minds, I want to make sure I have a plan for taking it from beginning to end. But at the same time, I know all the planning in the world won’t help me unless I know at what point to stop planning and start writing.

You will learn by the numbers! I will teach you!

So, by all means, plan your story. Lay out a course for the plot from the opening scene to the final line. Sketch out your characters and locations. Set the stakes for the characters and know when they’ll be raised. Figure out what your story’s going to be about

…But at some point you have to stop.

It’s hard to say when the time will be right for you to shift from planning to writing. The more you plan, the more smooth the writing process should be. But plan too much, and you’ll get caught up in the planning, which presents obstacles to writing ranging from always feeling you have more to plan to finding snags or holes in the plot that may appear insurmountable that torpedo the work before you even really get started on it.

Don’t forget that the end goal, here, is to write something for other people to read. Nobody’s going to be interested in reams of notes for a story that never got off the ground, unless you’re J.R.R. Tolkein or Frank Herbert. When you plan to write, be sure to work writing into your plan.

But now we’re getting into planning your plan, and I’m going to quit before my brain starts to hurt.

Carl Sagan Shoveling Coal

I’ve mentioned sfdebris a couple times now, most recently in my post discussing my favorite critics. I bring him up because he’s relevant to something going on in my day job currently. In his review of the Star Trek: Voyager episode Good Shepherd, he covers the opening in which Seven of Nine gives an efficiency report, and mentions that a crew member with 5 degrees in theoretical cosmology is at the bottom of the ship doing menial engineering tasks.

Courtesy Paramount
Why no, I didn’t use this photo just because Seven of Nine’s in it, why do you ask?

Chuck puts it another way: “On a ship meant to explore the wonders of the universe, you’ve put Carl Sagan in charge of shoveling coal.” While this is more inexplicable than normal in a semi-utopian future world set in space, it still happens in the normal, everyday world. Over-qualification is something that happens in the workplace, especially when the economy isn’t behaving as well as most would like.

When companies cut back in areas, it’s usually in places they’d like to expand but simply don’t have the capital to invest. This means that a lot of the people who get axed are people with ideas, creative folk with esoteric backgrounds who might not be focused on business or profitability. When losing their jobs, they do what they can to look for further employment, brushing up their resumes and beginning the arduous search for a job, a search that is every bit as tedious and uncertain as the search for an agent or publisher. Those who still have jobs, on the other hand, might find themselves in a position where, in addition to their regular tasks, they’re doing things like answering the phone for other departments or watering the boss’s plants or something.

Courtesy Enquirer.com
Times are tough, even for a Nobel laureate physicist like this gentleman.

Either way, you have creative people doing menial tasks – like Carl Sagan shoveling coal. I don’t have any sort of real solution in mind for the issue, other than keeping one’s eyes peeled for better employment elsewhere. And one should continue to make time for creative pursuits, because as the man has said several times, if one isn’t fortunate enough to be pursuing their dreams on a full-time basis, it becomes a spare-time endeavor. But that doesn’t mean one should give up.

It just means one might have to get by with less sleep and, really, who needs sleep? I don’t. And now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s coal that needs a-shovelin’.

At least, if I’m lucky, it’ll be coal and not something else.

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